As previously announced (Eyewear Intelligence Vol. 18 n°2+3), the French sports eyewear company has decided to revive the Solar brand of sunglasses, which disappeared from the market for more than 25 years when L'Amy stopped its development in 1989. In a smart move intended to complement its present offer of sports sunglasses, goggles and helmets, Julbo acquired the brands' rights from L'Amy last year and presented the first collections to the press in Paris earlier this month.

The Solar brand was created in 1958 by Gaston Beauchef and his American wife June Houghton, and developed through their Annecy-based company, SAMP (Société Annécienne de Matériaux Plastiques). The brand was positioned in both the sport segment, benefiting from the boom of ski participation from the end of the 1960s, and in the fashion segment, which also led SAMP to acquire the licenses for Nina Ricci and other fashion brands in the 1970s. At the peak of its success, Solar reached an annual turnover of 120 million French francs, equivalent to €18 million, with sales outside France representing about 75 percent of the total volume. At the end of the seventies, the brand was considered to be the European leader in the sunglasses market, according to Julbo officials.

Christophe Beaud and Michel Deshayes, respectively chief executive and general manager of Julbo, explained that the acquisition of Solar was a strategic investment intended to access the urban and fashion segment of the sunglasses market, which is not really covered by its house brand of sports eyewear. Furthermore, Solar sunglasses will be priced at between €30 and €60 a pair for the consumer, lower than the Julbo models. Designed and created at Julbo's headquarters in the Jura region, the sunglasses will be made in Asia.

Julbo's first Solar line comprises 21 designs split into three ranges - Sport, City and Heritage. The collection, which has already been tested in sports shops and by opticians, will be officially launched in September in France, and in the following months in the markets that Julbo is servicing directly through subsidiaries or agents: Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands and the U.S.

Solar will have a dedicated booth at the next Silmo show in Paris (Oct. 6-9). The company, which spends on average 10 percent of its annual revenues on marketing, will start a consumer campaign through social networks and stage partnerships with selected music festivals at the same time. A dedicated retail website, www.solar-eyewear.com, will be online in October where all Solar products will be available for consumers to purchase.

Julbo is targeting €3 million in annual revenues with the Solar brand in three or four years, which would be added to the turnover generated by the Julbo brand. The company's sales grew by 7 percent last year to €30 million. They have more than doubled in the last ten years, with export sales now representing 41 percent of the total revenues. They mostly come from directly operated markets. Sunglasses represent 60 percent of the company's revenues, followed by goggles and helmets (20 percent), optical frames (10 percent), with the remaining 10 percent including sunglasses with corrective lenses, and accessories. Across the board, 70 percent of Julbo's business is going through opticians, 30% through sporting good shops. All models and molds are created at the company's headquarters, which integrated a laboratory for corrective sun lenses a few years ago. About 75 percent of the production comes from the fully owned factory that Julbo acquired in Romania 15 years ago.